The Uncommon Life

Protecting the Rare Kirtland’s Warbler with American Forests

February 18, 2018

*Editor’s note: Spring is almost here, and we’re celebrating by sharing a story from our longest-standing nonprofit partner, American Forests. Thanks to our Better to Give program, we’ve donated over $400,000 to American Forests, the nation’s oldest conservation organization, since 2010. Read on for a report on their efforts to conserve the habitat of the Kirtland’s warbler, courtesy of the organization’s Manager of Forest Conservation, Justin Hynicka.

A Kirtland’s warbler in Stubb’s Park, Centerville, Ohio; photo by Andrew Cannizzaro

A bright future for Kirtland’s warbler in the Northern Great Lakes

By Justin Hynicka, American Forests Manager of Forest Conservation

I have a love-hate relationship with red-eye flights. On one hand, they maximize daylight on day one to explore my destination, which I love. On the other hand, it usually takes a day or two to shake off the cobwebs from poor sleep, which I don’t love. As if one night isn’t hard enough, just imagine taking a red-eye flight for two weeks straight. Oh, and you are also the pilot.

This is the journey the Kirtland’s warbler (KW; Setophaga kirtlandii) makes twice a year, traveling 1,700 miles in 16 days from the Bahamas to Michigan in spring, and back again in fall. [1] Even though KWs pass though many eastern states, they are rarely seen outside of their wintering and breeding areas due to a low-but-rising population and because they migrate at night. After such a journey, it’s hard to blame them for being one of only a few warblers to nest on the ground.

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Maker Stories

Uncommon Impact: Help Elephants & Sip Coffee with this Handmade Mug

February 16, 2018

When you think “activism,” you may not think “handmade pottery.” Thanks to the work of longtime maker JoAnn Stratakos, we’d encourage you to broaden your horizons. Best known around these parts as the creator of Elwood, our de facto mascot, JoAnn’s latest creation—the Protect the Elephants Mug—harnesses cuteness for a cause. For every mug sold, we’re donating $5 to the PAMS Foundation, an organization dedicated to conservation efforts, including the protection of elephants, in faraway Tanzania.

From left to right: Ryan, JoAnn’s Production Supervisor, throws a Protect the Elephants Mug on the wheel; mugs get their handles; and glazed mugs wait to be fired in JoAnn’s Effort, Pennsylvania, studio

Why PAMS? We asked JoAnn that very question. “The MudCrew and I came about the PAMS Foundation through a social media post about Wayne Lotter,” she told us. But if “the MudCrew” is JoAnn’s nickname for her staff, then who’s Wayne? The former director and co-founder of PAMS, that’s who. Killed in the line of duty last year in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Wayne founded PAMS in 2009 alongside fellow conservationists Ally Namangaya and Krissie Clark. It’s believed that Wayne—who received death threats throughout his career—was murdered for his anti-poaching work.

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The Uncommon Life

Birthstones By Month: What Do they Mean?

February 14, 2018

Birthstone meanings by month:

MonthBirthstoneMeaning
JanuaryGarnet Protection
FebruaryAmethyst Wisdom
MarchAquamarine Serenity
AprilQuartz or DiamondStrength
MayEmerald Hope
June Pearl or AlexandriteLove
JulyRuby Vitality
AugustPeridot Beauty
SeptemberSapphire Truth
OctoberTourmaline Healing
NovemberCitrine Joy
DecemberTurquoise Friendship

What is a birthstone?

Birthstones are gems that are associated with a birth month, each stone has a unique meaning and significance. Like horoscope signs, when you ask someone “what is your birthstone?” they almost always know the answer. Today you’ll commonly see birthstones in jewelry pieces, like necklaces, bracelets, rings, or earrings as reminders to celebrate your birth month all year long. Besides jewelry, birthstones or the colors symbolizing the stones show up in many other types of gifts and keepsakes making birthday shopping easy and fun. Birthstones are a part of modern society and since ancient times it is widely believed that wearing your birthstone is a symbol of wellness and good fortune. See which birthstone is meant for you.

What is the origin of birthstones?

Christian scholars in the 5th century made the connection between the twelve gems in the Breastplate of Aaron, twelve months of the year, and twelve signs of the zodiac. They theorized that each gem was connected to a certain month or astrological alignment and that they would receive therapeutic benefits for wearing one during that time.

To receive the full benefit, people took to wearing one stone for each month of the year and attributed a different meaning and value to them. Eventually this practice was modified so that a person would only wear the stone for the month they were born in (hence the term birthstone). There was a great amount of disagreement over which stone should represent a calendar month until 1912 when Sears published an “official” list of all the birthstones and the months they represented. Since then there have been a few modifications here and there but the list remains largely unchanged.

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Design

Give Your Favorite Fruits a Boost with the Just Ripe Fruit Bowl

February 12, 2018

Just Ripe Fruit Bowl | available only at UncommonGoods

Thousands of years—that’s how old the concept of a fruit bowl is. In Pompeiian frescoes and the Met’s collections (and many places in between), you’ll find evidence of the delightfully basic vessel’s time-honored place in our kitchens. When something’s been around so long, though, why tweak it? We’ll let you in on a secret: Your beloved fruit bowl could be better. We’re talking way, way better. And with a little help from designer Myles Geyman, our Product Development team set out to make it so.

First, if you’ll permit the indulgence, allow us to set the scene. It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and you’ve just hit the farmer’s market in search of your favorite summer fruits (hey, it’s February—we can dream): peaches, cherries, plums, and nectarines. You arrive home with your tasty, tasty spoils, plop them all in your favorite fruit bowl, and wait for each to achieve maximum ripeness. But you’re foiled when one of your peaches turns mushy, unleashing a sea of sticky peach slop, and when you attempt to lift your spirits, you reach for a plum—only to find it’s neither soft nor sweet! If only you had some way of organizing your fruits, pushing the tough, unripe ones along, and keeping such disappointment at bay…

Enter the Just Ripe Fruit Bowl and its partner in crime, a little thing called ethylene.

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The Uncommon Life

14 Uncommon (& Surprising) Valentine’s Day Facts

February 9, 2018

Crimson Heart Umbrella
Crimson Heart Umbrella – $32 Buy Now »

 

Valentine’s day is a pretty special day.

Whether you’re lucky in love, celebrate with single friends, or share the day with family members, you likely have something planned for February 14.

But why is the occasion so important? Here are a few fun facts about St. Valentine’s Day.

Beating Heart Bottle Sculpture
Beating Heart in a Bottle Sculpture – $100 Buy Now »

 

Who is this St. Valentine guy, anyway?

Today, the Catholic church actually recognizes three saints by the name of Valentine or Valentinus. Each St. Valentine was martyred.

So, which one is the St. Valentine of St. Valentine’s Day?

Legend has it that the St. Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. The emperor at the time, Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers, not having their hearts promised to special someones and all. So ol’ Claud outlawed Marriage. Valentine didn’t agree with the emperor’s rule and went around marrying folks anyway. Eventually, Valentine got caught and Claudius sentenced him to death for his defiance.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Carolyn Gavin

February 6, 2018

Artist Carolyn Gavin and her puppy Eggroll, photos by Jen Coleman

If you deconstruct the most inspiring quotes throughout history, you’ll find that they all have a few things in common: great wordsmithing, flawless pacing, memorable messaging. So when I asked artist Carolyn Gavin what inspires her to illustrate quotes, I thought she might say she enjoyed experimenting with fonts in watercolor, or that wanted her art to honor influential leaders or her favorite musicians. I quickly learned that these assumptions were too surface level for an artist who uses color like Carolyn. When describing her design process for our “World is Full of Magic” print, she simply said, “it’s just a feeling. I knew that quote would need flowers.”

After visiting Carolyn’s home studio in downtown Toronto, it is evident that this beautiful, gentle approach to her art manifests in every aspect of her life. Where the average person sees words or objects, Carolyn envisions bouquets, nature, and exotic shapes. Every corner inside of the 120-year-old Victorian house that she shares with her husband, her daughter Lily, and their English Bulldog Eggroll, is drenched in her signature color palette. From the quaint garden that she maintains in her off time, to the walls decorated with bright patterns that would make Justina Blakeney pause, every detail embodies the same joy that we find so captivating about her prints.

Carolyn is an artist who truly lives the words penned by writer Khalil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.” As I made my way around her sun-drenched studio, it was hard to distinguish which of her projects would be defined as work or “play.” She approaches every opportunity to create as a chance to learn and explore. Whether it’s sharing watercolors with her enthusiastic Instagram followers, or experimenting with new graphic design techniques for a commissioned project. Her creative perspective is always evolving.  

Read on to discover how Carolyn finds inspiration in her travels, how she maintains balance between her family’s business and her own artistic goals, and why she believes that the world is always full of magic. 

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Gift Guides

Our Least Mushy (But Still Lovable!) Valentine’s Day Gifts

February 2, 2018

Ever feel like Valentine’s Day is… well… a little bit gross? Call us immature, but here’s a secret: We agree, at least sometimes. All that lovey-dovey stuff isn’t for everyone; heck, some of us even show our love best with gifts that may seem totally aromantic—nerdy scarves, celestial bottle stoppers, coasters crafted from vinyl LPs… Trust us, the list goes on and on. Thankfully, we’ve shown restraint in choosing our tippy-top non-mushy Valentine’s Day gifts this year, selecting an even 20 of our favorites to bring joy to your sweetheart’s face. Read on for more. Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Valentine’s Day Gifts for a Relaxing Night In

January 29, 2018

We encourage relaxing throughout the year, but even we must admit that Valentine’s Day comes at an opportune time to chill. By mid-February, the holidays are over, and the sheen of the new year’s worn off just a tad—and with real life staring you right in the face, what better way to cope than with a hot, sudsy bath or a box of dark, indulgent chocolates? Now, with our favorite gifts to keep your Valentine’s Day celebration as peaceful as humanly possible, you can make a date of de-stressing. Read on for the rundown on 13 of our best bath soaks, tea kits, candles, and more.

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